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Abstract

At a time in which claims about the morality of feeling were becoming increasingly popular, Sarah Scott offered readers of Millenium Hall both a critique of, and an alternative to, moral feeling philosophy. As articulated by such figures as Adam Smith, moral feeling philosophy relied heavily on ideas about the impartial spectator's response to phenomena, particularly on the spectator's feelings of sympathy for the suffering of others. In her critique, Scott highlights the dangers of a system that collapses the distance between thinking and feeling and that encourages both egotism and passivity in the face of suffering. Using the formal resources of the novel, Scott re-establishes inter- and intrapersonal distances necessary for moral judgment. Most importantly, she uses the organization of the novel and the reactions of characters to show that the separation of rational response from emotional reaction is productive of ethical action. In this way, she makes Millenium Hall into a school for the moral education of readers.

Contributor's Note

Deborah Weiss is assistant professor of English at the University of Alabama where she teaches courses in eighteenth-century literature and the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century novel. She has published articles on Mary Wollstonecraft and Maria Edgeworth and is currently working on a project that investigates the philosophical engagements of late-Enlightenment women novelists.

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